The video, accompanied by a caption that read, “Like you’ve never seen them before,” showed Blige singing a song about social justice to Clinton. But the moment quickly turned into an Internet joke.
Memes mocking Blige filled our timelines but she wasn’t laughing. In fact, the “No More Drama” singer responded online by tweeting: “Everybody Shut the fuck Up… #takethat #haters #crabinabarrel #simpleminded #411.”
Forty-eight hours later in an airy Tribeca loft, Blige stood in front of nine journalists – including ESSENCE editors Cori Murray and Charreah Jackson —explaining what the internet missed and why fans should get used to seeing her in a brand new light.
Mary saw your memes but here’s why she was singing to Hillary
In the now infamous 10 second clip, Blige bursting into song in front of the first woman nominated by a major party for the United States presidency does seem a little off. However, after watching Blige’s full one-on-one interview, the moment she starts singing makes total sense – especially when you hear the song, a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots).”
Here’s the backstory: A few weeks ago, Blige was visiting Jimmy Iovine and they were discussing the rise in police killings of Black bodies. Iovine shared with Blige a song Springsteen wrote in 2000 in reaction to the police killing of Amadou Diallo. The song, written from the viewpoint of a Black mother, instantly connected to Blige, who wanted it incorporated into her upcoming interview with Clinton.
“The lyrics impacted me so heavily and so deeply, they made me cry. They are like a prayer that I needed,” says Blige. “I wanted Ms. Clinton to be impacted the same way, so the only way I could get that reaction from her was to sing it. I sang that song without warming up, I hit the iPad and just sang. It was organic. I think she felt it.”
Mary interviewed Clinton because she doesn’t want you to sit out this election.
“There are so many people saying they don’t want to vote, for her or for Donald Trump, so having people see someone like me interviewing Hillary Clinton, I hope it will provoke them to go and vote,” says Blige.
Mary’s adding journalist to her resume.
Since last November, Mary’s been honing her interview skills as host of her Beats 1 radio show Real Talk. She’s expanding her knack for candid conversations with a new talk show, The 411 with Mary J. Blige, which premieres Sept. 30. Says Blige, “The show is about what’s going on now in our culture and Hillary is what’s going on now. [Having her] was the best way to launch the show.”
Blige also knows there’s a learning curve as she transitions to television, but that won’t stop her from injecting her voice – sometimes literally — into the conversation.
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“With all the shootings and police brutality, I’ve never had the chance to say anything but then I had an opportunity to interview Hillary Clinton. Someone like me never gets an opportunity like that ever and I felt, I’m a singer first before I’m a journalist. This journalist stuff is brand new, and [singing to her], that’s the only way I could express myself.”
Mary keeps it real with Hillary.
“Being authentic is the only way I’m going to do anything,” says Blige. “I can only do this things from an organic place, or they will look staged. I don’t like staged. I like it to flow – especially with her. I love her. When I met her at the Democratic National Convention, she made me jump out of my skin. She made me feel. That’s what inspired the interview, the fact that she was real and organic.”
Check out a clip of the interview below: